Hausu (1977)
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Starring Ai Matsubara Kimiko Ikegami Kumiko Ohba Masayo Miyako Miki Jinbo Yko Minamida

An incredibly strange movie that somehow managed to elude notice for 33 years, "Hausu" was finally resurrected and released to U.S. theaters in 2010. Described by many as "Dario Argento Meets Beetlejuice," "Hausu" is actually a difficult movie to classify. Part bad comedy, part madcap horror film, it's basically just a highly entertaining, utterly strange horror film -- artfully directed and photographed. It actually reminded me a bit of Fellini.

The film opens with a group of seven schoolgirls debating how to spend their holiday. Still grieving from the death of her mother, Oshare (Kimiko Ikegami) is intimidated by her soon-to-be-stepmother decides to spend it with the aunt out in the country, and takes along all the schoolgirls. Upon their arrival at the ghostly mansion where her aunt lives, the group soon becomes the target of a series of hauntings, each one more outlandish than the other.

Naturally, as the girls start getting picked off one by one they realize the aunt isn't all that she seems and there's a ghost story behind what's happening to them.

From a girl being bitten by a flying severed head to another one being eaten by a piano, the movie at first seems too outlandish and illogical to be frightening. Bottom line: There's no way to be scared by a film with a dancing skeleton. But while "Hausu" often feels like it was made for children, it ultimately delivers a certain depth and even a level of terror at the very end that ultimately qualifies it as a horror film -- and a damn good one at that. It was apparently inspired by the "musings" of the director's 11-year-old daughter.

The best way to classify "Hausu" may be as a gonzo horror movie in the form of a child's nightmare. As unintentionally hilarious as it may be -- particularly during scenes involving the martial arts trained schoolgirl, nicknamed "Kung Fu" -- it isn't enjoying a resurrection after 30 years just because it's a fun "bad" movie. "Hausu" is actually an incredible little horror film, one that won't leave your memory anytime soon.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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